Life Lessons With Charlie – Small Boy, Big Choice

This article previously appeared on Charlie’s blog “52 Fearless Fridays”

“Mom, can we please buy me a body wash?”

It was a simple request, but I thought of our tight budget and reminded him that we had just bought body wash for the kids’ shower.

“I know, but that doesn’t smell very much like a boy body wash. I want one that smells like a boy.”

He had a point. I remembered the struggle to get a teenage and a preteen girl to agree on one body wash, and they had eventually settled on some frou-frou fragrance that wasn’t the least bit manly. It had never occurred to me that a growing boy may not enjoy smelling like a tropical flower – vanilla- sunset after a shower! I agreed to take him to the soap aisle on our next trip to the store.

Make a quick trip to the soap aisle, grab something and go…at least that’s what I was expecting my son to do. No…we had to put every single body wash to the sniff test, weigh the merits of a single purpose product against a shampoo/body wash combo, and to make sure that everything met with the approval of my completely serious 8-year-old. Yeah…we spent almost 10 minutes choosing body wash.

This morning I was putting my son’s new body wash away and had to smile. My little guy is growing up and making choices for himself. I had a twinge of nostalgia and thought of endless bottles of cartoon character themed shampoo, rubber ducks, and other assorted bathtub toys. For a moment, I wished my kids would stop growing…or at least mature a little slower. The days of my making all of their choices for them are gone and their own opinions and styles are emerging to set them apart as individuals.

All of a sudden, I realized that the lesson here really had nothing to do with body wash, or even with letting my son smell test every choice on the shelf. It was to respect his opinion, to encourage him to have his own preferences and to encourage that individuality. Yes, my baby is growing up, and I want him to! I want him to figure out what he likes, the music he likes, the sports he wants to play, the teams he wants to cheer for…and yes, even how he wants to smell. He isn’t going to like all the same things that I do, that his sisters, father, grandparents, uncles, cousins or friends like. Eventually my son will figure out what he likes, and I’m sure there will be days when I’m struggling to remember what his new favorite color or song is. That’s okay.

Guess what…? You have the same right to have your own opinions, favorite things, and style. We tend to forget sometimes when we’ve been in a continually abusive relationship. You’ve always loved wearing green, but someone important says they don’t like the way you look in green…so you stop wearing it. You love heavy metal but your spouse insists that country is all you listen to together. Your friend ignores your requests to try a new restaurant in favor of her usual cafe…you get the idea!

If you are trying to step out of someone else’s shadow, it can be overwhelming to try to redefine yourself. What type of music stirs your soul? What colors bring a smile to your face? Are you a cat person or a dog lover? Don’t let it get overwhelming trying to figure everything out all at once. Go try on new clothes. Volunteer at a local animal shelter and find a new friend to adopt. Listen to music you’ve never heard before. Smell every body wash in the aisle.

Before long, you will find those things and experiences that resonate with you, and you will begin to define your own self. Don’t be afraid to try anything new, and don’t be afraid to change your mind over and over again until you are content. As you grow into yourself and become stronger, you will go through several seasons and will have different energy. You will resonate with different people, places, and things. No one else gets to tell you what works for you, so don’t be afraid to get out there and figure it out for yourself.

Remember that it’s important that YOU like the way you smell when you get out of the shower…
By: Charlie Wallace